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How to Prevent Dehydration

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If not treated, dehydration can get worse and develop into a serious problem. Babies, children and the elderly are most at risk of dehydration, however, fortunately, there are multiple ways in which you can reduce the risk of the condition occurring. Here’s how to prevent dehydration for yourself and those around you.

What Is Dehydration?

Dehydration occurs when the body loses or uses more fluids than it takes in, resulting in the body being unable to function how it normally does. This is because the electrolytes (minerals) in both the blood and the fluids within the body influence how its muscles and nerves work, and when you lose fluids, these electrolytes are lost too.

As a result of this, we need to ensure that once we lose the electrolytes in fluids, we replace them so we’re not going without them. If you’re losing more fluids than your body is getting back, dehydration happens – which is why it’s important to drink enough to keep up with what you’re losing. This is why dehydration can be especially dangerous for older adults, as their bodies store less water. The symptoms of dehydration in both adults and children include:

  • Dark yellow and strong-smelling urine
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Feeling tired
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Urinating less often, fewer than 4 times a day
  • Having dry mouth, lips and eyes.

While dehydration can happen to anyone, there are certain cases in which the condition is more likely to occur. Dehydration can happen more easily if:

  • You have diabetes
  • You have been in the sun too long (suffering from heatstroke)
  • You have taken medicine that makes you urinate more often (diuretics)
  • You have vomiting or diarrhoea
  • You have drunk too much alcohol
  • You have sweated too much after exercise
  • You have a temperature of 38oC or more

How Can I Prevent Dehydration?

Here are some of the ways in which you can reduce the risk of dehydration.

  • Drink fluids when you begin to feel any of the previously mentioned symptoms of dehydration.
  • You should be drinking enough fluids throughout the day that your urine is a pale, clear colour.
  • Be sure to drink more when you’re at a higher risk of developing dehydration; for instance, if you’re vomiting or if you have diarrhoea.
  • If you’re struggling to drink fluids due to the fact you feel sick or have been sick, try to start off with smaller sips of water before gradually drinking more.
  • If you’re struggling to give your child fluids, use a spoon to help make it easier for them to swallow.
  • Don’t wait until you’re feeling thirsty to have a drink – instead, make sure you’re drinking fluids throughout the day anyway, whether you’re thirsty or not.
  • Be sure not to skip any meals, as we get many of our fluids from the food we eat. Especially aim to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet, as fruit and vegetables contain large amounts of water and vitamins.
  • If temperatures are high, make sure you’re drinking more fluids.

What If I’m Caring For Somebody Else?

For carers, here are a few ways in which you can ensure the person you’re looking after is drinking enough:

  • Make sure they drink during mealtimes.
  • Offer them foods with a high-water content – such as melon, soups, ice-creams and jellies.
  • Make drinking fluids a social experience, such as enjoying a cup of tea together, so that it doesn’t feel like a chore.

Should I Seek Medical Help?

You should call 999 or go to A&E if you have any of the following signs of serious dehydration, as you will need urgent treatment:

  • You have not urinated all day
  • You’re feeling unusually tired
  • Your pulse is weak or rapid
  • You’re confused and disorientated
  • Any dizziness when you stand up doesn’t go away
  • You have fits (seizures).

For Under-5’s:

  • They seem drowsy
  • They’re breathing fast
  • They have a dry mouth
  • There are no tears when they’re crying
  • They have dark yellow urine or haven’t urinated in the last 12 hours
  • They have a soft spot on their head that sinks inwards (sunken fontanelle)
  • They have cold and blotchy-looking hands and feet.

Once your child has been treated for their dehydration, it’s important that their fluid levels are maintained to avoid the condition taking place again. In this instance, GP’s usually advise the following-

  • Carry on breastfeeding or using formula – giving smaller amounts more often than usual
  • Give babies on formula or solid foods small sips of extra water
  • Give small children their usual diet
  • Give regular small sips of rehydration solution in order to replace lost fluids, salts and sugars – your pharmacist will be able to recommend these for you.
  • Do not make their formula weaker
  • Do not give fruit juice or fizzy drinks to young children, as these make diarrhoea or vomiting worse.

Dehydration can massively impact your health and wellbeing, so it’s essential that you stay hydrated at all times – not just during the warmer months.